Q&A: pellet preparation
15:34 20 November 2015
A reader asks Airgun Guru a question about pellet preparation from the October issue
Q: I’m fairly new to HFT (and loving it), and have received conflicting advice from a couple of club members on the subject of pellet preparation. One of the members tells me that he inspects and weighs individual pellets, sorts them into batches with a 0.2 grain tolerance, then washes them in hot soapy water, before lubricating them, but his mate uses them straight from the tin.
I’ve been watching their scores in recent weeks, and they’re normally within a point or two of each other, which makes me wonder whether the one who goes to so much trouble with his pellets is wasting his time. What does GURU think?
GURU SAYS: The pads of our fingertips are very sensitive, and we can usually tell by feel alone if a pellet is misshapen, although it’s worth getting into the habit of giving each pellet a quick visual inspection before loading it.
Good-quality pellets usually weigh within 4% to 5% of the average, and a few tenths of a grain won’t generally make a huge difference in trajectory, so if you want to weigh pellets, perhaps just weeding out the few very lightest and heaviest will suffice.
It seems that people wash pellets because they find tiny fragments of lead at the bottom of empty tins, but whether washing is necessary is debatable, because gravity separates the pellets from any swarf in the tin, so it doesn’t really need washing out.
Lubricating pellets helps keep the barrel clean, and prevent a build-up of lead in the grooves, which can otherwise reduce accuracy. I read some test results on the effect on accuracy from pellet lubrication a few years ago, and the conclusion was that not only did it help accuracy and slightly increase pellet ballistic coefficient, but also that not every pellet needed to be lubricated, just every third or fourth, because each lubricated pellet leaves traces of lubricant in the barrel. That means you don’t need to lubricate the entire side surface of each pellet to get the full effect.
It’s possible that the main advantage of pellet preparation is actually psychological, and boosts the user’s confidence, which is the single greatest aid to accuracy. By the same token, of course, the person who is utterly convinced that pellet preparation is unnecessary is equally confident in shooting unsorted pellets! Perhaps that’s why your two club members, with such very different approaches to pellet preparation, achieve such very similar scores.
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